Home to jaguars, capybaras, cattle ranches, cowboys and 350 species of birdlife is the world’s largest tropical wetland, Brazil’s Patanal, 75000 square miles of rivers, pastures, and islands where wildlife and unique flora thrive. This lush ecosystem coupled with working cattle ranches provides visitors a South American adventure like no other. Beneath flocks of colorful bright blue macaws, one can enjoy sightings of giant anteaters, tapirs, capybara, ocelots, blue fronted parrots, spoonbills and jabiru storks while searching for South America’s signature apex predator, the jaguar.
The Caiman was founded over a century ago as a traditional cattle ranch by English investors. In 1985 the owners’ personal project to conserve the landscape and wildlife led to the creation of Caiman as a tourist destination to give visitors an opportunity to enjoy the Pantanal on a working cattle ranch.
Caiman today is a 53,000-hectare wildlife reserve, ranch and lodge complex, a pioneer in combining ground-breaking conservation initiatives with a unique eco-tourism safari experience and the traditional “Pantaneiro” cattle ranching system. Committed to the perpetual conservation of the Pantanal biome, Caiman is home to ground-breaking wildlife conservation and rewilding projects and has established a 5,600-hectare protected nature reserve that represents over 10% of the ranch’s total area. More than 500 animal species roam freely in the area.
Several conservation projects are located within Caiman, in the southern Patanal, including The Hyacinth Macaw Project, the Blue Fronted Parrot Project, INCAB Brasil conservation of lowland tapirs, and perhaps best known group Onçafari, researchers who work to safeguard the majestic jaguars along with other rare predators like maned wolves. This initiative promotes the conservation of the Pantanal through a different kind of photographic safari, in which the animals do not lose their wild nature, but they stop seeing the safari vehicles as a threat.
This responsible ecotourism initiative provides a source of income to the region’s inhabitants and owners, uniting sustainable practices with social progress. The fascination with the jaguars and the experience of the safaris are used as tools to change the opinion about these animals and raise awareness to the visitors and the Pantanal inhabitants that preservation is a synonym of development. It has been reported by the owners of the Caiman lodge that 100% of guests in the last 12 months have seen at least one jaguar and many have multiple sightings.
Campo Grande, the largest city in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, is a stepping-off point for excursions into the wetlands. Season dependent, as many as 4 flights to Campo Grande occur daily from Sao Paulo. From here, travelers can view hundreds of aquatic species that call the Pantanal home at the brand new Biopark Pantanal or catch a short flight (or 3.5 hour drive) to a luxurious, tropical safari lodge. Recently renovated, Caiman Brasil, is a wonderful choice serving as many as 40 guests in 18 individual suites in the main lodge, formerly the century old ranch, and in 2 private villas- one a 5 bedroom and another 6. The villas are privately staffed and guided, with a private vehicle at the guests’ disposal. With most properties run by local families, posadas like Caiman offer guests an immersive experience in local culture- home cooked meals, afternoon siestas, curling up with a book by the fireplace, taking a dip in the swimming pool, horseback riding and ranch activities with the gauchos. Activities include day and night safari adventures by 4x4 and by boat, canoeing in the pristine lakes and waterways, hiking the trails with a field guide to learn more about the flora and fauna of the area, participating in important conservation activities side by side with researchers, while taking in some of the planet’s most breathtaking scenery overlooking a cinematic Bay and surrounded by an immense area of nature.
It's no wonder that the Pantanal is on Time Magazine’s list of the world's greatest places of 2023. While most visitors come to see the elusive jaguar and come to understand the research being done by the Oncafari researchers, there is so much more to be enjoyed in a visit to this rural region of Southwest Brazil. Book early; the season is short and Time Magazine’s shout out will only make bookings harder to secure.